Spring in Montana – This Means Snow!

This week has been full of reminders of what spring in Montana is like.  Snow and more snow.   Almost everyday we woke up to snow.   We were just above the snow line.   Spring will not happen for us until the snow line moves up another 1,000 feet.   For us that means sometime in June.   Today it feels like  an eternity into the future.

Even the chickens are wondering if we will have snow every morning this summer.

Even the chickens are wondering if we will have snow every morning this spring.

As much as I am ready to turn the soil and put seeds in the ground I know that we will have night-time freezes for weeks to come.   For some reason this year I am not ready to wait that long.   It means that I am going to need to explore season extenders that will work with my low temperatures, occasional snow, regular frosts, howling winds and a small budget.  No putting  seedlings in the ground and covering them occasionally with sheets.    This is going to take a plan and daily effort to get things to go all the way to harvest.

So I hope you will follow along and give me your thoughts and suggestions as I figure out how to extend my growing season on a shoestring.

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Waste Not Want Not.

This week I am on the road for work.   On Sunday I took stock of what was in my refrigerator that Ranger Sir would not use while I was gone. In general that is an easy question, vegetables.   He does not turn up his nose at eating them if I fix them, but they are not on his top ten list of things he would take to a deserted island.

I was now looking to solutions that would prevent waste.    Here is what I came up with:

  • Pattypan squash became  two mini loaves of zucchini bread.  One to keep and one for the freezer.
  • Bananas became 3 mini loaves of oat bran bread.  One to keep and two  for the freezer.
  •  cauliflower and broccoli were blanched and went to the freezer for soup this winter
  • mango, pears and plums went on the dehydrator for my next granola.
  • I threw the last of the yogurt in the strainer.   He will used strained yogurt in place of sour cream on potatoes.

He started the week  with a relatively  empty refrigerator that goes perfection with toast cheese, tomato soup, crock pot dinner and whatever else his heart desires.   He had two quick breads to satisfy his sweet tooth.

Sometimes you just have to take a step back and attack your problems differently.

Cooking Around what You Have

veg-webEach Saturday night or Sunday morning we do menu planning for the upcoming week.    We plan our menu around what we have, and what we think we might want to have for our dinners.   This week I got the Mexican Vegetables option with my Bountiful Basket. It was a gorgeous collection of food that inspires so much food south of the border.  This selection requires a much more adventuresome menu than Taco night. The package has more than you can incorporate in a single meal or two.  Here are some of what we have planned.

We had an assortment of Anaheim, Hatch and jalapeno peppers.   Can you say Chili Rellenos?

The avocados are calling to be made into some guacamole.  I will use some of the garlic, peppers, onion, lime juice  and cilantro.

The grey squash is going to be made up into Calabacitas con Queso.  If you don’t know what this is you are missing something great.

My Mexican collection included a Chayote.   I have never have had one of these,and I have picked a recipe called Garlic-Chili Roasted Chayotes to try this new veggie.

My chickens have started to lay again so Huevos Rancheros are on the menu for next weekends as brunch again.

Not only will we cook Mexican, but we have some andouille sausage so Jambalaya is on the menu, as well as Cuban Black Soup.

I am sharing this with you because we generally always buy and cook the same things.   It is hard to justify buying things you have never worked with, but  occasionally buy a single item you are unsure of.  Challenge yourself when you get home to find a way to cook it on the net.   You aren’t going to love them all, but you are going to try something new.  You will likely find more things that you like than you don’t.   Your menus will be a little less of the same old same old.  Life will be a little less routine, a little less boring.

More Veggies and Fruit

good-food

I  have talked many times before about the whole the Bountiful Baskets Co-op.   We started  months ago, and months later I would have to say it has been one of those things we have done that have really made our lifestyle a little more healthy.  Who would have ever imagined that buying a basket of produce every other week, sight unseen would work.   You pay money and get what you get.   It is almost un-American.   We have all that fresh produce in the refrigerator and it is a challenge to eat it all before it goes to waste.  We eat things we would never have bought at the grocery.

We have incorporated more veggies into every meal we eat.   It has become easy and second nature.  We manage to eat nearly all the veggies that we get in each basket before  the time for our next one arrives.    We have never been fruit eaters and we have made huge strides in that area as well.   We are not yet eating all our fruit yet, but we our progress is more remarkable than we have done with veggies.

Bountiful Baskets works for us because we are open to trying new things.   We are willing to eat anything once, maybe twice.   We also like to try new recipes.  New and more fresh ingredients feed that creative part for both my husband and I.  If you are not open to trying new things that you could end up with baskets full of veggies you may be unwilling to eat and disappointed. I have always managed to be on the wrong week to get Brussel sprouts which I love and husband hates.   Likewise I have always wanted to try fennel and was on the wrong week for that too. But I have learned about collard greens, pomelo, fresh papaya, things I wasn’t willing to spend money on, for a chance.

On top of making us healthier it has also made our pocketbook healthier.   Last Saturday we stopped at the grocery after we picked up our basket as we needed milk.  We decided to do a price check on our our basket.    It was $15 + $1.50 fee=$16.50 total out of pocket.    Out cost at the local grocery for the same items would have been $34.   Boy didn’t we feel good?

Food on the Road

Last week I was on the road for work, which meant that I ate out all week.   Having been on a mission to incorporate more vegetables into my diet this week drove home to me how crummy your choices are when dining out.

Let me set my personal stage:   I am a meat eater and eat plenty of that at home.   I have multiple veggies with each meal.    At our house we do try to do one meatless meal a week.   My reason for this meal lifestyle  focus on vegetables is an effort to have a more  well rounded nutritionally balanced diet.  I really have come to depend the variety of tastes and textures that having an assortment of veggies with a meal. It makes me full and satisfied after a meal.

I ate many of my meals at the conference center/hotel restaurant.   In four days my choices for the vegetables was asparagus with a mornay sauce, or steam carrot/cauliflower/broccoli mix.   Based on that I can assume it wasn’t fresh, but likely some frozen “bag veggies.”  I also ate some meals at chain and local restaurants and found that my choices really no better.   Vegetables were absent for the most part.

I have come to the conclusion that the public is not demanding veggies and so restaurants are not providing them.  They are not inexpensive because we repeatedly are offered the same ones.   Now all this has me thinking of my next business trip, when I will be on the road for a full week.   What do I plan to do for myself to not go for a full week so few veggies?   I am not sure, but I have a couple of months to think about what I will do.   I would love to hear from others their thoughts on this challenge.

Three Vegetables

Three vegetables with every dinner is our family goal and potatoes don’t count.  That is a pretty ambitious goal in the best of situations.   I can give you a host of reasons why it is hard to achieve in our house:

  1. One of cooks in the house, my husband,  was raise with minimal to no vegetables.  They aren’t on his radar.  His take on vegetables when I married him: ” I eat corn because I like it and beans because they are good for me.”
  2. We grocery shop only once every 7-10 days
  3. I live in a spot in Montana where it semi-arid, and the growing season runs from late June to sometime in September.  Frost is common in July and August.
  4. Our farmer’s markets reflect the problems stated in number 3.
  5. Our grocery stores, though national chains, reflect a 60’s produce selection.  If you don’t shop on a day the truck comes in the produce is just so-so.
  6. Frozen veggies require more thought.   It easiest to pull them out of the bag and throw them in the steamer.    Steaming and serving gets pretty boring pretty fast.
  7. Dollar for dollar on a per serving basis fresh is more expensive.

Those of you following my blog, know that I recently started participating in Bountiful Baskets.  It is a traveling delivery co-op system.   It allows us to purchase a basket of fresh veggies and fruits and a reasonable price.   The downside is that you don’t know what you will get in your basket until you pick it up.    If you are willing to go outside your normal comfort zone it is a great way to get those three veggies in you dinner menu.   My husband is even getting into this.    Friday  he made sandwiches for lunch  and proudly announced he had included 3 veggies.  It is a sign that this goal of ours is finally becoming a normal reality for us, not just me but both of us.

Changes happen slowly, but with persistence change can become your reality.

A New Challenge Collard Greens

Regular basket for this week.

This week my Bountiful Basket included lots of fun goodies and only one of them may me think hmmmmm.   Collard greens.   I have never made or even tasted them in my entire life to my knowledge.   So I will be searching for a recipe on the net.    My husband said he is sure that Paula Deen has something that will use them with lots of bacon and butter.  Those two fats can make anything yum!

This week I ended up with a “conventional basket” (non organic).   I really feel like I got quite a stash for only $15.  Look at the picture to see how much produce we ended up with.

I am discovering it really is quite a challenge to get all my fruit ate.   Last week my DH had to bring a treat to work and he made a banana cake with a white cake mix.   We still ended up freezing a few mashed banana’s and now we start again.   We did freeze some cauliflower as well.

Tonight we ate a leftovers with homemade Margaritas on the rocks.  So we started already on the limes.   I grilled some mixed veggies as well. So started on basket even on the first day.   Tomorrow  will start menu planning to work on getting meals that utilize as much of our stash as possible.   I am not a honeydew melon eater so will likely share that with others.  Two English cukes is a lot and so will send one of those on as well.    Beyond that even if I am gone for three days lets hope that we can get through this all before we need to decide if we are in or out for the next box.

Let the next two weeks  journey into healthful eating start.